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ESI UGM96 USB audio interface review

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Features 10/10

In terms of features UGM96 is a very fair deal. You have at your disposal a compact device capable of working with an electric guitar and a microphone or two electric guitars. There are two headphone outputs, one of which is also a line out. It's possible to simultaneously record two instruments into two seperate tracks in your DAW. What's more there is a feature called "Direct Wire", thanks to which you can, for instance, redirect your DAW's output to operating system multimedia drivers input. Having that done, you can record a video from a webcam with the sound coming directly from the DAW. There's one more thing that is worth mentioning. Included Cubase 4 is not that much reliable - even after updates and hotfixes it crashes from time to time or reports an error and requires a restart.

Features:

  • 2 x analog input and 2 analog output channels
  • 2 independent mono Hi-Z inputs
  • 1 Hi-Z input switchable to microphone input with preamp
  • 2 headphone outputs
  • 1 headphone output can work as line output
  • minimal latency - 1ms (ASIO buffer) - actual measured round trip latency @ 44.1kHz - 8.7ms
  • fully USB bus powered
  • drivers for Windows 7 (32-bit & 64-bit)/Vista/XP with ASIO support with low latency
  • Core Audio support under Mac OS X 10.4 and higher
  • Virtual Guitar Amp from Gallo Engineering
  • Cubase LE 4 from Steinberg for Mac & PC

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Sound quality 8/10

UGM96 gives a fair performance soundwise. It's difficult to find another interface offering as low latency as UGM96. The sound is brighter and a bit more dynamic in comparison with Line 6 recording interfaces, however also a little bit more noisy. It's interestingly clear in mids, it could be more punchy. There is one issue with the line out - at high output levels I get some kind of unwanted feedback from guitar inputs when playing through multimedia speakers, this doesn't happen when playing through headphones.

Ease of use 10/10

It's very simple to use, really. There are no required steps to follow before starting recording. Standard buffer size is 128 samples which is okay, buffer number setting doesn't need to be tweaked until performance issues arise. DirectWire is an extra and I use it for making guitar videoclips with a webcam.

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How to setup ESI UGM96 with Reaper

Videos

Production of such videclip with UGM96 takes no longer than the clip lasts. Note that no microphone was used.

Advantages

pic Features - 2 guitar inputs, 2 headphone outputs, DirectWIRE
pic Low latency - 8.7ms is a very good result exceptionally for such an inexpensive gear
pic Fine sound quality
pic Bundled software
pic Price

Drawbacks

pic 96kHz isn't possible on every USB controller, for me it worked on a VIA PCI USB device

System requirements

In UGM96 manual you can read that Pentium III 600MHz is sufficent. In reality the better CPU you have, the more possibilites there are for you in terms of reamping and mixing. I would recommend a dual core at least.

Technical specification

It's possible to record 24-bit audio at 96kHz with 1ms ASIO buffer. Full specification can be found in UGM96 user manual and you can read it below.

Analog Input

    Hi-Z Instrument Input
    • Type: unbalancecd 1/4"
    • Max Input Level: +4.5dBV max
    • THD+N: 0.003% A-weighted
    • Impedance: 500 kOhm
    Microphone Preamp
    • Type: TRS 1/4"
    • Max Input Level: -13dBu max (at +20dB gain)
    • THD+N: 0.003% A-weighted
    • Impedance: 2.2 kOhm
    A/D Converter
    • Type: 24-bit / 96 kHz
    • Dynamic Range: 105dB (-60dBFS A-weighted)
    • S/(N+D) Ratio: -98dB (@ -1dBFS)
    • Interchannel Isolation: 90dB
Analog Output Line & Headphone Output
  • Type: Stereo Phone Jack 1/4"
  • Max Output Level: +4dBV
  • THD+N: 0.003% A-weighted
  • Output Power: 100mW Max @ 32 ohm
  • Impedance: 32 ~ 600 ohm
D/A Converter
  • Type: 24-bit / 96 kHz
  • Dynamic Range: 103dB (-60dBFS A-weighted)
  • S/(N+D) Ratio: -90dB (@ -1dBFS)
  • Interchannel Isolation: 100dB
Power Consumption
  • 0.85W typically
  • USB bus powered
  • 500mA maximum
Dimensions
  • 6 x 7 cm

UGM96 on www.esi-audio.com

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